One thing we all know about the Chinese religions, whether it’s Taoism, Buddhism or Shenism, is that they have a large number of deities, and there is often a statue of one of them in many Chinese homes and shops. The most widely seen statue, aside from Kun Iam, is the Chinese God of War or Saint of War – Guan Gong 關公 (Duke Guan) whose mortal name was Guan Yu. He is easily recognizable with his fierce red face, long black beard and usually holding a large axe-like weapon, also known as the legendary Green Dragon Crescent Blade 青龍偃月刀, which weighs fifty kilos, according to one of the four great classical novels in Chinese literature, the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”.
Guan Gong is also known as Guan Yi Gor 關二哥 (2nd brother Guan) in Macao and Hong Kong. He is known to be worshipped by the police and triad gangsters alike. It was not until someone questioned why so many restaurants have statues of the God of War that I realized Guan Gong seems to be everywhere. I used to think shop owners who worshipped him must be related to the gangsters or were retired police officers. Then I realized the God of War is more than just a symbol of zung 忠 (loyalty), ji 義 (justice), jung 勇 (courage) and mou 武 (valiance).
Guan Yu is one of the most well-known historical figures in Chinese history, which was made legendary by the classic novel and followed by numerous TV reproductions. Guan Yu served under the warlord, Liu Bei, who later became the Emperor of Shu Han during the period of the Three Kingdoms. It was because of his sworn brotherhood with Liu Bei and Zhang Fei (another general of Liu Bei) that Guan Yu has also been called Guan Yi Gor, as he is ranked second among the three brothers. Aside from being known for his valor, which caused enemies to deem him invincible, Guan Yi Gor was more respected throughout the history of China for his Ji Hei 義氣, meaning loyalty to friends, or better translated as honor to the brotherhood code. Throughout history, he was honored by different Emperors and religious heads crowning him with different titles commemorating his integrity, valor and loyalty.
Therefore, it is not surprising that policemen and triad gangsters worship Guan Gong. On the one hand, the police want blessings from the God of War in their fight against crime. But so do gangsters who might be involved in more wars against the law and other outlaws. On the other hand, by offering incense to Guan Yi Gor together, it implies a bond of brotherhood that is not to be broken, and any betrayal would be punished by the deity. But how is the God of War relevant to running businesses?
According to different sources, aside from his military ability, Guan Yu was also talented in finance, and was responsible for the bookkeeping in their army. There is a saying that he created the bookkeeping journal that is still being used by traditional Chinese businesses today. Therefore, Guan Yu is also known as the Military God of Fortune 武財神 and is believed to bring prosperity to businesses. More than merely bringing fortune to businesses, as compared to other deities of prosperity, the Military God of Fortune oversees business integrity too. So, next time we see a business worshipping the God of War, we should not worry that it could be related to the triad. Rather, we can trust that they are being monitored by the fierce, just, honest and courageous God of War/Fortune.